Boston Bombing Case: Long, Taxpayer-Funded Trial Ahead

Lawyers to argue Chechen oppression dating back to WWII helped drive a monstrous act.

141224-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-1607_3b5fa04b2b4c5ea8d833fa766b134dc3As jury selection in the federal trial for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins, his high-profile defense attorneys, provided courtesy of the United States taxpayer, will argue that Dzhokhar was under the psychological influence and control of his older brother, Tamerlan, when they engaged in their orgy of violence back in April 2013. They will also argue that Chechens experienced discrimination and hardship dating back to the Stalin era and that these as well as other factors curtailed the younger Tsarnaev’s free will. Tamerlan was killed after Dzhokhar drove over and dragged his body while attempting to flee from police.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 federal charges including multiple counts of murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. Seventeen of the thirty counts on the indictment sheet carry the death penalty. Tsarnaev’s team of experienced attorneys includes Miriam Conrad, Judy Clarke and David I. Bruck and each is an expert on capital cases. They will seek to reach a plea deal with federal prosecutors, one that avoids the death penalty for their murderous client.

The trial will be bifurcated, which means that there will be two proceedings. In the first, the government will establish Tsarnaev’s guilt, a task that doesn’t seem difficult given the weight of evidence. A separate proceeding will then commence to determine whether he will face the death penalty for his actions.

The defense tactic of throwing up a veil of smoke and mirrors in an effort to confuse jurors and pin the blame on someone else for their client’s own misdeeds is nothing new and often prevails. In this case, however, Tsarnaev’s lawyers face a seemingly insurmountable task.

The trial will be held near the location of the atrocity and it will be difficult for Tsarnaev’s attorneys to select prospective jurors who are unfamiliar with the event. A defense motion to change the venue of the trial based on the claim that it is impossible to find an impartial jury in the current venue, was denied. Moreover, a plea deal seems remote given the sheer volume of evidence against the defendant and the egregiousness of the act. A plea deal in this case, one that takes the death penalty off the table, would come at great political cost, something the Obama administration is keenly cognizant of despite its objection to the death penalty.

But even if Tsarnaev is found guilty and sentenced to death, it could take years before the actual sentencing is effectuated. For example, it took six years before sentencing was carried out in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case. It is a virtual certainty that Tsarnaev’s lawyers will file endless appeals to delay justice. David I. Bruck, one of three high-priced lawyers defending Tsarnaev, has argued over 70 capital cases before the United States Supreme Court and is an expert on the appeals process. No doubt his talent will be put to good use should Tsarnaev be sentenced to death.

As detestable as he is, Tsarnaev, whose Muslim Chechen family collected more than $100,000 in various government social welfare benefits, is not without his supporters. In an interview with ABC news, Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor Tsarnaev, did not issue an ounce of remorse for the victims of his son’s diabolical actions. Instead, he created a moral inversion, placing the blame on the United States stating, “The Americans are going to harm my second son the same way they did to my oldest son…everything is in Allah's hand.”

It remains to be seen how this trial will play out. It is a virtual certainty that despite overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence pointing toward Tsarnaev’s guilt, it will take months of legal wrangling before a verdict is reached and sentencing handed down. It is also a virtual certainty that the sentence will be challenged with multiple appeals at enormous taxpayer expense, while the many victims of this senseless act of Islamic terrorism try to put the pieces of their lives back together.

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